Foolishness for the sake of art

While enjoying a piece of cake and my afternoon coffee, I thumbed through a prestigious sporting magazine. Inside I found a lovely photo essay of mountain brook trout fishing, and it made me chuckle and shake my head.

The photographer had done a beautiful job, choosing the time and the scenes to take best advantage of the natural light, using his skills to capture the amazing colors of our Eastern native char. My spur of the moment shots with my pocket fishing camera aspire to beauty such as captured there.

Outdoor art to me is fulfilled by honestly capturing the beauty of nature, and this gentleman’s essay admirably accomplished that goal. The head shake was spawned by a small ancilliary photo, a ground level shot of three overly large graphite fly rods with heavy disc drag reels, not at all the tackle suited to 6″ brook trout.

This out of place photo was obviously included per someone’s artistic vision, probably an editor of some sort and not the photographer, and I felt it made a joke of an otherwise lovely exhibition. The best art captures reality; nature, light and mood, not foolishness.

It put me in mind of another foolish image, a video I watched recently of two guys fishing a tiny brookie stream, one either of them could easily straddle, with a 9′ graphite fly rod and sizeable nets. Each time they derricked a 5″ brookie out of the water on an unbending rod, they grabbed for those nets and caught the little trout in mid air. Perhaps being cooped up way too long during this crisis has made me overly critical, but this was just goofy.

The point of both these critiques is that you can’t really enjoy these little wild trout when terribly over-gunned. If media, either professional or amateur seeks to inspire people to sample the beauty and peace of a mountain trout stream, then their story should be authentic.

I don’t do too much brook trout fishing, seduced as I have been by the wide waters of the Delawares, but I should. I have the tackle for it. Mountain streams and small native trout cry out for a short, light bamboo rod and a tiny single action reel. Tom Smithwick’s 5 1/2 foot one piece rod was tailored for a 4 weight line, and it excels in tight quarters. The rod will also cast 40 to 50 feet without effort, particularly when used with Lee Wulff’s oval casting technique.

That light, lively sliver of cane comes alive with a 6″ trout, and it has handled trout three times that size with aplomb! I cannot help but think of Tom when I think of brook trout.

Mountain Perfection: The Smithwick One Piece 5 1/2′ 4 weight and CFO I

Tom’s rod is a study in perfection, the taper of his own design, and painstakingly crafted in the Garrison style with spiral node spacing and clear silk wraps. There is nothing so pure as a bamboo rod crafted in one piece. Eliminating the ferrule removes the dreaded “weight” that scares anglers weaned upon graphite away from the pleasure of cane.

For anyone who doesn’t care to invest in bamboo, there are many short, light graphite and fiberglass rods available that are excellent for mountain trouting. Generally anything 6 1/2 feet and shorter, casting a 2, 3 or 4 weight line will do. The more limber the rod the better. A small reel under 3 ounces suits such light tackle perfectly.

I always liked a 6′ base leader for this fishing, adding three feet of 5X tippet for the dry flies I fish in these waters. The trout are small but I prefer medium sized dry flies tied on size 14 and 16 hooks. I don’t want tiny trout to swallow the fly. The classic Royal Wulff is a great pattern, so too a 16 Letort Cricket. My favorite is a fly I call the Fox Squirrel Special. I tie my Fox Squirrel pattern with a bright yellow calf tail wing instead of the wood duck used on my Catskill tie. Easy to pick that fly out as it bounces through the white water on a mountain brook!

My Fox Squirrel in the Catskill Style
Buggy fox squirrel dubbing, cree hackle and a wood duck flank wing

You can leave your vest and net at home too. Rod and reel, a small box of flies, spare leader, floatant and a spool of 5X tippet is all that you really need! This is shirt pocket tackle. Forgive my rant, but please leave the heavy tackle at home if you go for a walk up a mountain brook. You will enjoy yourself much more when sparsely, and properly equipped.

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